10 paintings inspired by the French Revolution

The French Revolution, especially Napoleon Bonaparte, has influenced the works of various artists.

Most of the paintings, inspired by the French Revolution, are painted by one famous neoclassical artist, Jacques-Louis David. 

There are numerous other paintings created by many French painters. Style of art emerged with Neoclassicism(18th Century) followed by Romanticism(19th Century) and Impressionism.

The French Revolution has inspired famous paintings, including Death of Marat, The Card Players, Napoleon’s Coronation, and La Danse.

Here are 10 paintings mostly inspired by the French Revolution.

10. Napoleon crossing St.Bernard Pass 

Napoleon crossing St.Bernard Pass

Napoleon Crossing, the St.Bernard Pass, is also known as Napoleon Crossing the Alps. It is an oil painting painted on canvas by the French artist Jacques-Louis David (1800).

This painting shows Napoleon riding a horse into the battle. The colours used for this painting were mostly golden, to portray the godliness character of him.

The colour of the horse is white, and it shows the purity of the godliness. This painting is made again using various other colours by different other artists. 

Four other versions use darker shades than the original painting. Napoleon’s expression is kept the same in all of the versions.

The main intention of this painting is to display the attributes of Napoleon and prove him as a high authority figure.

9. Napoleon’s Coronation

Napoleon’s Coronation

The original name of the painting of Napoleon’s Coronation is The Consecration of Emperor Napoleon I and the coronation of Empress Josephine. It was painted by Jacques-Louis David (1807).

Initially, the painting had the art of Napoleon holding the crown above his head, and later it was revised with the coronation of Josephine by the Emperor.

It is a famous painting that shows the historical event where Napoleon is shown crowing his first wife, Josephine. This painting intends to show the generous side of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The painting painted by David shows Pope Pius VII gesturing blessings with his hand, and it shows Napoleon taller by lowering the throne.

The painting is referred to as Le Sacre by the French.

8. The Storming of the Bastille

July 14 – Storming of the Bastille

The Storming of the Bastille was painted by Jean-Pierre Houel, a French Artist, on July 14, 1789.

This painting shows the fortress that was used by the Kings of France to imprison the guilty person. There were mostly those who tried and went politically against the system or the King.

The colours used in the painting of the Storming of the Bastille are blended with dark and light colours.

The scenes of the Bastille Day can be seen clearly due to the use of contrast and the perfect blend of colours.

Jean-Pierre has tried to make the painting more realistic by using the smoke and the destruction effect. With the use of watercolours, the visibility of the painting is made accurate.

7. The Awakening of the Third Estate

The painting of the awakening of the third estate is painted by the artist of the French School in 1789.

This painting is actually a cartoon which shows Nobility and Church horrified by the Third Estate as they were throwing manacles during the French Revolution.

The Awakening of the third Estate represents the third estate awakens from the Old Regime’s Nightmare and attacks the nobility with arms.

In the background of this art, we can see the destructed Bastille and heads being paraded on a pike (July 14, 1789).

It symbolised the emergence of new orders in which people will have their arms and central role.

This painting is a reflection on the causes of the French Revolution and the revolt of the awakened Third Estates against other estates.

6. The Death of Marat

The Death of Marat french revolution paintings

The Death of Marat was painted by Jacques – Louis David in 1793. It is the portrait of one of the most famous murders of the French Revolution.

Jean-Paul Marat was the most radical revolutionary leaders and the chief editor of the newspaper, L’Ami du Peuple and David was a member of a Convention where Marat was the deputy Jacobin.  

While Marat was stabbed to death by charlotte Cordy, he was in the bathtub. David was given tasks of planning Marat’s funeral and painting his death scene.

The painting, death of Marat, displays an image of Marat covered with a blanket in the bathtub.

The knife and Cordy’s petition signify the treasury of Cordy, and drooping eyelids – tilted head of Marat made this image similar to the image of Jesus Christ on the cross.  

5. Reading of the Bulletin of the Grand Army

Louis Leopold Boilly painted the Reading of the Bulletin of the Grand Army in 1807. It was painted in the Neoclassical period showing the historical scene of this period.

This painting displays the excitement amongst the people to look at the information received from the army.

The painting is portraying everyone looking eagerly at the map and the available information regarding the army.

It shows a room filled with a group of men, women, and children gathered all around a table to see the progress made by the French Army on the map of Europe.

4. Women’s March on Versailles

Liberty leading the people Painting by Eugène Delacroix

This painting shows the Women’s March on Versailles, where women gathered to protest against the shortage of bread and price raise.

Women are carrying pikes in their hands and taking their grievances to the King. They are all shown, muscular and fearless. 

The illustration of Women marching displays thousands of Parisian women marching( about 12 miles) towards Versailles to the residence of the National Constituent Assembly and the French King.

The Women’s March is also known as the October March. It was a vital movement in both the fate of King Louis XVI and the French Revolution.

3.  Liberty leading the people

Liberty leading the people

Eugene Delacroix painted the Liberty of leading the people in 1830. It commemorates the July Revolution of 1830, toppling Charles X, King of France.

This painting shows a woman, with a Phrygian cap reflecting the concept of Liberty, leading a group of people and moving forward over the bodies of people that have fallen and the barricades.

 In one hand, she is holding a tricolour flag which is the flag of the French Revolution and in other waving a weapon. 

The figure is considered as the symbol of the French Republic and France, a robust woman of the people, and a symbolic goddess. It is known as Marianne.

2.  Napoleon in his Study

Napoleon Bonaparte(1769-1821)

Napoleon, in his Study, was painted by the famous French artist, Jacques-Louis David, in 1812.

In this painting, Napoleon is dressed in his formal uniform and is standing at the centre of the vertical canvas. He is placing his hands in his pocket and is hunching his shoulder slightly. 

The painting displays that Napoleon had spent his night at his Study while composing his code. To display this, the painting has his cuffs unbuttoned, his trousers wrinkled, and his hair dishevelled.

This painting also shows some detailed work: candles are almost in extinguishing state, paper and pen scattered around the table, and the clock shows the morning time ( 4:13 am ).

It also has Napoleon’s sword kept on the side chair to show his military achievements.

The motive of this painting to portray Napoleon as a powerful leader, administrator, legislator, and statesman.

Read: Top 10 major battles of Napoleonic Wars

1. The Tennis Court Oath

The Tennis Court Oath paintings

An incomplete painting, the Tennis Court Oath, was painted by Jacques-Louis David( 1790-1794). It shows the titular Tennis Court of Versailles.

David was unable to finish this piece of art due to various political and financial difficulties. The incomplete painting is kept at the Musee National du Chateau, Versailles.

It was a painting inspired by a historical event from the French Revolution. The Tennis Court Oath was an impactful event during the revolution.

The painting of the Tennis Court Oath shows the exciting moment of people raising their hats and arms to praise the oath. It also has clear faces of the people to make them recognisable.

This masterpiece has a golden colour showing the joyfulness experienced during that moment. The winds of change are signified by blowing the draperies.

This painting includes clergyman, Dom Gerle, to display the tolerance of the three estates and shows a man not taking the oath as a portray of the leader of the Third Estates.

 Conclusion:

The French Revolution lasted for 10 years(1789 -1799), and it was full of impactful events that changed modern history.

It impacted not just the nations but also artists all around the world. Many inspirational paintings that have been inspired by the impactful revolution are mentioned here.

Artists mostly of the period of the French Revolution were inspired by Napoleon Bonaparte and other major events of that period. Paintings were all made to bring back the incidents that took place during that period. 

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Cite this article as: Richard Marrison, "10 paintings inspired by the French Revolution," in HistoryTen, February 23, 2020, https://historyten.com/french-revolution/french-revolution-paintings/.
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